The men’s hockey team will take its first steps toward defending its ECAC championship this weekend.

The Bulldogs will travel to upstate New York to play Rensselaer (4–3–1, 0–0 ECAC) tonight at 7 p.m. and Union (3–3–1, 0–0) tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Yale (1–0–0) has been successful against Rensselaer in the past. In the teams’ two matchups last season, Yale won 4–1 at Rensselaer and 7–3 at Ingalls Rink. Engineer freshman forward Brandon Pirri will look to challenge the Yale defense this time around: Pirri has come up with key goals already this season, scoring one in a 4–3 OT win over Union and two in a 4–3 OT win over Sacred Heart.

Despite recording wins in three of their last four games, the Engineers have conceded at least two goals in the third period in each contest. This statistic could be music to the ears of the No. 6 Bulldogs, for whom strong third periods have become something of a trademark. This was evident in their season-opener last Saturday, when the Bulldogs’ fitness showed, and they blew past No. 11 Princeton late in the game, scoring four goals in the third period to overcome a 2–1 deficit and win 5–2.

Head coach Keith Allain ’80 said he hopes RPI’s tendency to slow in the third period, combined with Yale’s conditioning, will bring the Bulldogs a victory.

“We are big believers in fitness,” Allain said. “We like to think that we are in better condition than all of our opponents. We play a high-pressure style and wear them down, and that works in our favor.”

On Saturday evening, Union College will provide the second conference test for the Elis. The Bulldogs beat Union 4-2 on the road last season but lost the second contest 5–2 at home. The Bulldogs got out to a 2–0 first period lead at home in December, yet saw the Dutchmen score five unanswered goals over the course of the last twenty-two minutes of the game for the win. Yale got its revenge as it defeated Union in the midst of its ten-game unbeatten streak in early 2009.

Forward Adam Presizniuk is the Dutchmen’s most potent attacking weapon. He was their overall leader in points last season and has four goals and three assists this season.